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Product Owner: Role and Responsibilities

The Product Owner (PO) plays a very important part in Agile. He supports his Agile team, which he is ideally collocated with, and at the same time serves as the customer proxy. He is actively working with Product Management, Customers, Business Owners, and other stakeholders – including other POs, to define and prioritize stories in the Team Backlog. In this way he ensures the Solution is effectively addressing program priorities (Features and Enablers) while maintaining technical integrity. By ensuring Stories meet user’s needs and comply with Definition of Done, he also helps to maximize the value produced by the team.

Product Owner’s Responsibilities

1. Preparation and Participation in PI Planning

Before PI Planning PO updates the team backlog, reviews it, coordinates dependancies with other POs and contributes to the program vision, Roadmap, and content presentations;

During PI Planning he helps to define stories, communicates story details and priorities to the team and provides the clarifications necessary to assist them with their story estimates and sequencing. He also helps his Agile Team to determine their PI objectives for the upcoming PI, and ensures the team aligns and agrees on a final iteration plan.


2. Iteration Execution

Maintaining the team backlog – One of PO’s main responsibilities is building, editing, and maintaining the team backlog, that includes user stories, defects and enablers. Backlog items are prioritized based on user value, time, and other team dependencies determined in the PI planning event and refined during the PI.

Just-in-time story elaboration – Before the iteration, during iteration planning, or during the iteration, backlog items are elaborated into user stories. User stories and acceptance criteria can be written by any team member, but PO is the one, who maintains proper flow.

Apply Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) – POs collaborate with their team to detail stories with acceptance criteria and examples in the form of acceptance tests.

Accepting stories – The PO is responsible for assuring quality of the product and its fitness to use. He ensures stories meet the acceptance criteria, that they have the appropriate, persistent acceptance tests, and that they comply with Definition of Done (DoD).

Understand enabler work – POs should be able to understand the scope of the upcoming enabler work and collaborate with System and Solution Architect/Engineering to assist with decision-making and sequencing of the critical technological infrastructures that will host the new business functionality. This can often be best accomplished by establishing a capacity allocation, as described in the Team Backlog article.

Participate in team demo and retrospective – POs collaborate with their team and any other stakeholders in the team demo. They also participate in the Iteration Retrospective and Agile Release Train’s (ART’s) Inspect and Adapt (I&A) workshop.


3. Program Execution

Iterations enable frequent, reliable, and continuous release of value-added solutions. During each PI, the POs hold weekly PO Sync meetings during which they coordinate dependencies.

4. Inspect and Adapt

During I&A Workshop, team addresses larger impediments. PO’s role is to help team define and implement improvement stories that will increase their velocity and improve quality of the program. The PI system demo is also part of the I&A workshop. The PO has an instrumental role in producing the PI system demo for program stakeholders and participates in the preparation for the event. In this way he ensures team will be able to show the most critical aspects of the solution to the stakeholders.

Content Authority

To guide the ART in creating the Solution, SAFe® leverages several artifacts such as Features, Stories, Non-Functional Requirements. These items are prioritized in Program and Team Backlog(s) and managed by the Product Manager and the Product Owner. Product Manager provides content authority for Program Backlog, while Product Owner for the Team Backlog.

This is a highly collaborative relationship that works most effectively when Design Thinking and Continuous Exploration tools such as Personas, Empathy Maps, Customer Journey Maps, Story Maps, are used to promote insight and understanding. Each Product Manager can usually support up to four POs, each of whom can be responsible for the backlog of one or two Agile teams (Source: Scaled Agile, Inc.).

More information about Product Owner’s role and responsibilities can be found in the original article Product Owner by Scaled Agile, Inc. The article can be found here.

SAFe and Scaled Agile Framework are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.